Sunday, May 13, 2007

motherhood: of joy and sorrow*

Motherhood is inherently a relational endeavor- one cannot be a mother without another being. As in any relationship (and more so, as the primary relationship) to embrace motherhood is to walk into one’s deepest desires and greatest fears.

To be called into Motherhood is to be called into Life:

Luke 1:46-49 And Mary said, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name…”

To be called into Motherhood is to be called into Death

Luke 2:34-35 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, "Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and Mary, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."

If life is to be brought through death it seems as though mothers are the daily embodiment of the paradoxical message of the gospel.

And yet there is so much confusion around mothers. Phrases like “don’t mother me” and “momma’s boy” (amongst others) convey a profound disappointment with mothers. If you really stop to think about being in the presence of one who has bared and birthed and nourished and raised you (given you life)… you will go crazy. I experience gratitude, disappointment, love, shame, tenderness, weirdness and awe when I consider my mother. But the question that I’m sitting with today is- How did she discover life more fully through being my mother? And what was it for her to die a million deaths on my behalf?

And now I look at my wife- mother now twice. Death- and yet more Alive than ever before. Her face bears a heaviness (a darkness?) it didn’t 2 years ago yet she carries a lightness of joy I didn’t know she possessed. I have seen her mourn the loss of much but have seen her grow into deeper more complex beauty because she has embraced the call to bear life on behalf of the other with the risk of death for her self. And that is motherhood- to bear life on behalf of the other with the risk of death for one’s self. Mary would be the mother of the Messiah and have a sword pierce through her soul because of it. Similarly, is this not the call of Jesus? An invitation to embody this stance towards our family, our community and our world. This is a place where we are called to die and in doing so, discover a life of meaning we could not imagine. Happy Mothers Day.

*(notes for dialog at wits end church today)


Nathan Smith said...

wow, Phil, love this one. You are in the imaginative and it gives you access to thoughts and noetic musings that connect to the heart very smoothly. i want to pre-order the books that you'll write. I hope your mom gets to read this

elnellis said...

thanks nathan. coming from you it means a lot too! i have a feeling that if you ever write a book it's going to be very good and very very very long. you have a lot to say!
i hope you are well, where are you now?

Nathan Smith said...

talking too much is a problem, so I'm thinking you're right. If I write a book or books then my friends, family and strangers that i corner in the subway won't have to listen to my blah blahs. I'm in India now and will be in London for five days visiting with Stephanie there. Then off to the Doulos, one of our ministry ships. my new web addy is although my blogspot addy still sends you there. Blessings!

cris said...

Thanks for taking the time to put these thoughts down in writing, Phil. They really impact me--even as I recognize my taste of motherhood, its life and its death is only, only beginning. And I love how you see your wife. She is an amazing woman.

doristheblade said...

phil, this is beautiful. i keep trying to express the elusive and complex nature of motherhood but haven't succeeded quite so succinctly as you. not only have you continued your art over the years, but you've become an amazing writer as well? not fair... hehe. oh! congratulate ruthie for me, i didn't know you had two!!!